United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights Surya Subedi has called on politically connected development company KDC International to halt its project in Kampong Chhnang province.
Following violent clashes between KDC security guards and protesters on Monday, Subedi released a statement yesterday that calls on all sides in the long-running land dispute to exercise “calm and restraint”.
“I call on the company, KDC International, to immediately halt development of contested land until all claims by individual families have been properly assessed by an appropriate independent body in a fair and transparent way,” he says in the statement.
“In this case . . . I have documented convictions of community members and activists, whilst the company was able to seize possession of disputed land before a decision was rendered by a competent, independent body addressing the community’s claims that the leased land is in fact owned by individual families.”
A representative of KDC International, which is owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem, could not be reached for comment.
Residents of Kampong Tralach district’s Lorpeang Chhnang village have been mired in a dispute with the firm since 2007, when it bulldozed 145 hectares of farmland.
“For . . . years now, the local community has been embroiled in a dispute over contested land and the complaints that they have sought to lodge with the court system against the authorities and KDC International for the alleged intimidation, violence and land loss, have remained unaddressed,” Subedi’s statement says.
On Monday, at least one villager was beaten unconscious and more than a dozen injured in violent clashes with company security guards armed with scythes, slingshots and iron balls.
Subedi also called on the government to do more to protect the community against human rights violations.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan and Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, could not be reached.